Knowing vs Believing
Knowing vs Believing: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Let us look at the (sometimes dissimilar) terms: Knowing vs Believing. What is faith? (Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the KJV Bible.)
Sometimes I hear Christians talking about faith and they make statements like, “Faith is not just believing that God can do such and such but rather, knowing that God will do it.” This sounds pious but we should test whether it is a valid assumption. Is faith a matter of believing – or of knowing?
The speakers likely base that statement on their understanding of Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” However, the jump from “substance” to “knowing” is not an absolute. Could the word substance mean something different? Let us read the entire chapter for context and a better understanding.
Some thoughts from a further reading of Hebrews 11:
- Faith allows us to understand the unseen: Verse 3, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
- Faith helps us make proper decisions: Verse 4, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain“
- Faith enables us to accept God’s grace – and to please Him: Verses 5,6 (and 16), “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.“
- Faith puts us in God’s plan: Verse 7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.“
- Faith directs our path through the unknown: Verse 8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.“
- Faith can make the impossible, possible: Verse 11, “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.“
- Faith is not swayed when the answer or knowledge is not forthcoming in our time: Verse 13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.“
Although this is a shortened list – there are many more in this chapter, and in everyday life – I will stop before the listing becomes too boring. But remember, always consider the entire context – not just a single verse when you want to establish God’s truth.
Faith is composed of many elements. Verse 13 lists some of those elements: People of faith see promises in the future, are persuaded of them, have embraced them, and have confessed them. But nowhere does it suggest that they KNEW them. Instead, verse 8 clearly states that Abraham did NOT know where he was going. There are many other instances in the Bible where men and women of faith were blind of their future. In particular, verse 13 (above) states that ALL of those faithful people DIED before the object of their faith was fulfilled or their prayers answered!
The New International Version (NIV) translates Hebrews 11:1 as, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This version places the concept of faith in a more appropriate light. “Faith is confidence” is a far more accurate definition than “faith is knowing.” In faith, we have the “assurance” of the things that we may never see.
Knowledge or “seeing” something diminishes true faith. Romans 8:24 (NIV), “For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?” And even though Jesus’ half brothers (Joseph’s sons with Mary) lived with Jesus for over 30 years and KNEW him well, the Scripture declares that their knowledge did not translate to faith. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5 NIV)
Knowing vs Believing
Believing in Jesus is like trusting in Him. We trust (have faith) that what He said, He will do – even if we don’t see it in our own lifetime. That is clearly not the same as knowing. Disciples of Jesus follow Him in faith, trust, hope, and love – but often without seeing or knowing.
Allow me to close with the words of Peter (1 Peter 1:7,8):
[S]o that the authenticity of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy.